Light on laughs in Zookeeper

Kevin James stars in Columbia Pictures' "Zookeeper."
Kevin James stars in Columbia Pictures' "Zookeeper."

IN Hollywood, there is a circle of comedy actors, who if I didn’t know any better, live in the same frat house – only emerging to act in a never-ending rotation of films specialising in bodily function gags.

In my experience, this sort of humour which was made famous by the likes of Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller et al, is the marmite of cinematic comedies: you either love it or hate it.

But having detected the whiff of Sandleresque slapstick in Zookeeper, I soon realised that this particular strain of funny film cannot be wholly attributed to the same group of actors that pop up annoyingly in the manner of children’s game, Whack-a-Mole.

No – in part it’s the traditional auteur at the root of this particular strain of comedy and his name is Frank Coraci.

Whether you realise it or not, Coraci is the one who bought you the likes of Waterboy, Click and The Wedding Singer.

Filming Zookeeper, in all fairness, must have been a challenge for the director and his leading man, Kevin James, who in all likelihood spent about 80 per cent of the filming talking to himself and reacting to thin air.

The star shares his spotlight with a cast of wild animals, voiced by Sandler, Sylvester Stallone and Cher, playing loyal pet-lover, Griffin, who loses his way on the path to ill-fated love.

So desperate to win the affections of glamourous airhead, Stephanie (Bibb), he fails to stay true to his adoring animals, or see that the perfect woman is already under his nose (Dawson).

A talking monkey threatening to “throw poop”, a neurotic giraffe and a depressed gorilla offer some highlights, but it is the lioness (Cher) who offers the voice of reason among the insanity.

Children will no doubt find the talking animals hilarious, but adults may find the plot a bit lame. Its roll-your-eyes banality – typified by an utterly unbelievable love square – is a common problem with Coraci’s style, where substance is sacrificed for cheap laughs.